How to pour water

Another topic that came up during my conversations with Sherab is pouring water into the pot. Think it doesn’t matter?

Well… the story he told me is like this

A certain famous tea master, who shall remain nameless, was brewing tea for a few people somewhere in China. Sherab has a friend who went. Two teas were made. The first was a wet stored cooked puerh, and it tasted like crap. The tea supposedly gave off the “locking the throat” feeling, where one feels as though the throat is closing up and is often attributed by mainland Chinese as a sign of wet storage — a bad side effect, so to speak. The second tea, which, while not specified (to me) I assume is also of a similar genre, had no such effect. Second tea is better, no?

Well… not quite. Apparently, when the master made the first tea, he poured water from up high and in a rather violent fashion, so the water hit the pot hard. The second tea he didn’t do that. Afterwards, as Sherab’s friend knows said master, he went and asked. Master said, “when you do that (high and fast pouring) with wet stored cooked puerh, you will always produce the “locked throat” effect”. Pray, tell, why would a venerable tea master do such a thing so that a tea will come out tasting worse? Well, I’m sure you all, my intelligent readers, must know the answer, and it involves profit, if you need a hint.

The fact that most tea masters out there have a profit motive is not something you need me to tell you. However, the significant part of this story is the pouring – how do you pour water into the pot affects the way the tea tastes. I remember, very early on in my own tea career, I was told that when making oolongs, one should pour from high up, in a small stream, gently, and slowly. Puerh, on the other hand, should be treated with a stronger stream, but NOT high up — pour low. When pouring from pot/fairness cup into the cups, ALWAYS pour low — don’t splash around like some bad youtube videos do.

Over time, I must say I’ve gotten sloppy with my water pouring technique. It’s easy to get lazy, but I decided to try that out again today. I pulled out my aged baozhong, a tea I know pretty well, and one of my pots, and made sure that whenever I made that tea, I poured in a small stream from up high. The result? My tea seems to be a little less sour, and a little smoother. I’m going to try tomorrow, with the exact same wares, but with a different water pouring style. Let’s see what happens, and of course, I’ll report back.


Comments

How to pour water — 4 Comments

  1. From an objective standpoint I can think of two significant differences between a high pour and a low pour.

    1) a high thin pour will cool the water before it gets to the tea. Green tea drinkers will sometimes pour boiling water back and forth between glasses to accomplish the same effect, or use a thick ceramic bowl as a heat sink before brewing. If you want to feel it, next time you take a shower, feel the temp of the water coming from the shower head, then feel it again before it reaches the ground. I have one of those rain shower heads that’s mounted near the ceiling, and I notice it’s much cooler at the floor when I wash my dogs.

    Anyway, convention says puerh should be brewed as hot as possible, while oolongs less so, and greens even less. Although, cooler water can sometimes make harsh young raw puerhs easier to stomach.

    2) A high pour will also hit the leaves harder, and might knock off any oils or such from the leaves. Esp after first brew, I get a strong impression that there’s something on the surface of the leaves as they cool a bit before the next brew, that I cant see being good for any tea.

    It will also introduce air back into the water from the resulting bubbles. Boiling water will remove much of the dissolved gasses, so perhaps there’s some kind of reaction as well between something in the tea, and oxygen?

    I usually tilt the lid of my pot sideways in the hole (also leave it that way to dry), and then pour onto the lid, letting it decant into the pot. Seems to work for me, and might be worth a try if you haven’t before.

  2. Interesting…

    As I usually make tea around things like papers and books, I tend to pour low if at times briskly, simply for the sake of not having splashes all over my desk. But from my view this sounds like a very complicated subject, it could all affect the timing, how the water moves inside the pot, etc…

    Blind tests would be interesting :p

    -vl.

  3. Hi Marshall,

    This is a bit off-topic but I am wondering if you have any advice. I am a lover of oolongs and also green teas (enjoy the occasional cup of black, esp. the Yunnan I recently got from Hou De but less often). I have recently tried a few Pu-erhs and have not really enjoyed them too much. I also bought a cake which I haven’t tried yet. Trying to decide whether I should keep trying, if pu-erh is just not for me, or if maybe the pu-erhs I have tried were not good representatives.

    The ones I have tried: a “Yr01 Aged Menghai Tea Factory 7542″ sample from eBay seller puerhtea2005. This one tasted to me like leaves that had been composting in a forest, with some dirt mixed in and a hint of black tea. I also got a “90’s Zhong Cha Green Stamp ChiTse” sample from him, which I have not tried. He also sent along 3 samples of other pu-erhs, 2 sheng and one shou. I tried one of the shengs and it tasted strongly to me of tobacco. I couldn’t drink this one at all.

    Meanwhile, I also have a whole unopened beeng of Mengyang Guoyan Classical 99 Green Cake 2007 which I got from Gordon at DTH. Here is where I could use some advice.

    Should I: a) figure pu-erh is just not for me, and give away, sell or trade the Mengyang beeng
    b) try to start aging the beeng and if so, how? (humidity is my house runs between 20-65% I would guess which seems to dry for aging — basement is more damp but a bit moldy)
    c) open the cake up and try it — then if I do like it, can I try to age the rest after it’s been opened?

    Sure would appreciate any tips!

    Thanks in advance,

    John

  4. When I first learned gong fu tea, I left with the impression that bubbles were something to be avoided at all costs for a good brew. I can’t speculate on the physical processes at work between the pour and the leaves, but I find a quiet pour reflects a quiet mind. And for me, gong fu tea is a form of mindful meditation.

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